Cable systems that have converted to all-digital transmission will be allowed to encrypt their basic-tier programming, the Federal Communications Commission decided last week. The FCC on Friday released its full Report and Order, which explained the decision and outlined transitional protections for existing subscribers who might be affected.
Previously, FCC rules prohibited cable operators from encrypting their basic-tier service, while allowing encryption on higher service tiers. Cable operators typically encrypt most of their programming as a way of ensuring only paying subscribers have access. Subscribers can decrypt the signals with operator-provided set-top boxes or with third-party equipment that complies with the CableCARD technical standard. The FCC’s prohibition on basic-tier encryption meant that subscribers could view basic-tier programming — usually consisting mostly of broadcast and public-access channels — on standard televisions simply by connecting the cable to the TV, without the need to lease or buy set-top boxes or other equipment.
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